Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi. Published 1949. Caldecott Medal 1950. Atheneum Books. ISBN: 9780684188317
This is another book where the illustrations really got my attention and the text really did not. The subject matter - the swallows’ yearly return to Capistrano - interested me somewhat because my dad used to talk about that when I was a kid, but the story didn’t really stick with me. What I did like was the artist’s use of bright springtime colors and the fact that the music for the songs Juan and the other kids sing is included right in the book. I also think it’s important to have books like this, that teach children about other cultures and the feasts and events that are significant to those cultures. This book isn’t especially dated and could still be relevant today.
Pedro the Angel of Olvera Street by Leo Politi. Published 1946. Caldecott Honor 1947. ISBN: 9780684160030
I didn’t realize this would be a Christmas book, but it actually tells about the Mexican tradition of La Posada, which is a Christmas procession through the streets. Pedro, who has a beautiful singing voice, is asked to lead the procession as an angel, and the reader follows him through the celebration, experiencing the procession and the breaking of the pinata right by his side. The story could have used more of a plot, but it does make a nice lesson on a celebration American kids might not know about. The illustration of the fallen pinata surrounded by treats is the best one in the book.
Forest Pool by Laura Adams Armer. Published 1938. Caldecott Honor 1939. Longman Green.
This story is set in Mexico, and the artist’s style clearly reflects that culture. Unfortunately, the story itself is slow-moving and the illustrations all begin to look the same after a while. By the end of the book, I had the impression that this was a story that happened to have some illustrations in it rather than a true picture book where text and pictures work together.